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Justin Verlander finally recorded his first strikeout in July

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Justin Verlander snapped an unusual streak on Saturday evening when he whiffed the Indians’ Bradley Zimmer to end the fourth inning. The strikeout was Verlander’s first of the month, following a rare strikeout-free appearance against the Indians last Sunday. Until Zimmer’s three-pitch strikeout, the Tigers’ right-hander had faced 41 straight batters without fanning a single one, a streak that dated back to the sixth inning of his start on June 27.

Given the way Verlander pitched the rest of the night, however, it’s unlikely that there’s any significant cause for concern. He touched 98 m.p.h. with his fastball and held the Indians scoreless through four innings, eventually giving up a run on Michael Brantley‘s RBI double in the fifth. His lone strikeout to Zimmer seemed to open the floodgates, and he exited in the seventh inning after issuing six hits, four walks and six strikeouts.

It’s been an uncharacteristically rough season for the 34-year-old, who’s coming off of a Cy Young-worthy campaign in 2016. He entered Saturday with a 4.96 ERA, 4.3 BB/9 and 8.4 SO/9 through 98 innings, and his 92 strikeouts are only good for 24th-most among qualified major league starters — just 162 shy of the league-leading mark he set last year. While he’s struggled to produce the sub-4.00 ERA of seasons past, Verlander is still drawing substantial interest around the league and is expected to command a hefty return should the Tigers decide to push forward with their rebuild this summer. He’ll look to bounce back in the second half when he returns to the mound in the next couple of weeks.

Nationals’ major leaguers to continue offering financial assistance to minor leaguers

Sean Doolittle
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On Sunday, we learned that while the Nationals would continue to pay their minor leaguers throughout the month of June, their weekly stipend would be lowered by 25 percent, from $400 to $300. In an incredible act of solidarity, Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle and his teammates put out a statement, saying they would be covering the missing $100 from the stipends.

After receiving some criticism, the Nationals reversed course, agreeing to pay their minor leaguers their full $400 weekly stipend.

Doolittle and co. have not withdrawn their generosity. On Wednesday, Doolittle released another statement, saying that he and his major league teammates would continue to offer financial assistance to Nationals minor leaguers through the non-profit organization More Than Baseball.

The full statement:

Washington Nationals players were excited to learn that our minor leaguers will continue receiving their full stipends. We are grateful that efforts have been made to restore their pay during these challenging times.

We remain committed to supporting them. Nationals players are partnering with More Than Baseball to contribute funds that will offer further assistance and financial support to any minor leaguers who were in the Nationals organization as of March 1.

We’ll continue to stand with them as we look forward to resuming our 2020 MLB season.

Kudos to Doolittle and the other Nationals continuing to offer a helping hand in a trying time. The players shouldn’t have to subsidize their employers’ labor expenses, but that is the world we live in today.